Mr Andrew Jones College Deputy Head: Sport, Boarding and Wider Curriculum

Every year, as the winter sports season starts, I along with the rest of the coaches look forward to taking on the challenge of a new season. An aspect of coaching that I particularly enjoy is contributing to shaping a team culture and unpacking the various dynamics at play within a team environment. A big part of this is formulating and discussing what we are trying to achieve as a team and how we go about deciding on what works for us as a team, underpinned by identifying our unique individual and collective strengths around which we can structure our game plan.

A specific aspect in this formative stage, which creates a healthy debate, is when I pose the question: When should we dribble with the ball: should we dribble when we are in trouble (i.e. opposition players are within proximity of the ball and there is a high likelihood that they can dispossess us)? OR should we dribble when we are out of trouble (open spaces and limited risk of losing the ball)? To Dribble or Not to Dribble?

There are several aspects or angles that could be considered when answering this and, for the sake of conciseness, I will limit it to a few thoughts.

The default response to this question is usually that it is better to dribble when out of trouble as there is very little to lose (especially possession), and it makes more sense to dribble when you have time and space to use your skills. It is at this point that the learning opportunity calls out, as I enjoy challenging this idea

My take on this is why would you dribble with the ball when in space, as it limits the role of your teammates to passive participants? How does using your skills in this situation add to the value of the team? Somewhat counterintuitively I encourage the players to dribble when they are in trouble, as using their skills in these situations creates a higher likelihood of getting out of trouble, with the hope of a positive outcome for the team. Not only does this improve or enhance anticipation and awareness when we have time and space on the ball, but it also shifts the focus from individual needs to team goals.

This is not a quick process, and it takes regular reminders that, collectively, we are all better players if we move the ball into areas of the field where we can play to our strengths, rather than relying on instinctive desire to impress/show off and shift our thinking to one in which we are more aware of what is in front of us. This allows us to access a range of other skills and, by setting these parameters in place, it enhances our thinking as a team.

In so many areas of life where our actions and motives are driven by a pursuit of self-interest, it is our responsibility to stop and consider how different the outcome could be if we acknowledge that we have strengths to offer, but this should not be at the heart of what of we are doing so that we lose sight of the bigger picture. Being willing to connect with those in our environment (or teams) and in so doing creating a culture of awareness and shifting to a position of meaningful contribution, helps activate the power of synergy.

Enough of criticising the dribblers! It would be remiss of me not to balance this article by acknowledging the undoubted benefits of dribbling! In the younger years it is an essential part of developing self-confidence, creativity, quick thinking under pressure, and great skill on the ball.

For both the dribblers and the non-dribblers, I encourage you all to train hard, give of your best and strive to become better people because of your increased situational awareness and understanding of what you can offer and contribute positively to those around you

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